More Than Help of Christians: a True Friend!

Our Lady is often invoked under the title of Help of Christians. What can we meditate on about this support that God has placed within our reach?

When we see a representation of Our Lady under the invocation of Help of Christians, our first reaction is usually one of respect for her incomparable majesty. In fact, in this image we contemplate Mary Most Holy wearing a crown and with a sceptre in her hand, like a true Queen, carrying her Divine Son, the King of the Universe, on her arm.

Our Help of Christians is portrayed in this way in order to emphasize that the help She provides is, without a shadow of a doubt, powerful! No grace surpasses her capacity for intercession, since the Mother of God obtains everything from her Son, and for Him “nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37).

However, the biggest mistake anyone could make would be to think that, being so unspeakably lofty, Mary is inaccessible, like so many powerful people in this world. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Mother par excellence!

Mary begot us to grace when, at the Annunciation, She gave her consent to the Incarnation of our Saviour (cf. Lk 1:38) and, later, when She offered the life of her Divine Son on Calvary. From His adorable Cross, Our Lord Jesus Christ himself wanted to confirm this truth, for He officially gave her to us, in the person of the Apostle St. John: “When Jesus saw His Mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His Mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your Mother!’” (Jn 19:26-27).

Seeing her sublimity, it would be a mistake to imagine that She is inaccessible, like so many powerful people in this world

With this gesture, God made Man established Mary as Mother, help and defence of the “banished children of Eve”. Thus, it is not unreasonable to think that the Most High created her full of graces also with a view to pleading the cause of her children until the consummation of the ages.

In view of this responsibility, the most humble Handmaid of the Lord does not remain idle! She is our Mother par excellence, never letting herself be outdone in solicitude, and favouring even those who ignore or hate her. Indeed, there is no shortage of historical examples in this regard.

Statue of Our Lady Help of Christians – Lumen Prophetæ House, Mairiporã (Brazil)

And if Mary is so good a Mother even to the ungrateful and indifferent who invoke and love her but little, “how much more will She be to those who invoke her often? ‘She is easily found by those who seek her’ (Wis 6:13). […] She loves more tenderly those who love her.”1

Mary is our Mother and our true Friend

The story is told of a catechist who had a surprising experience one day during a catechism class. When she asked the students to name their best friend, one girl answered without hesitation: “Teacher, my best friend is my mother!”

And she was right! How do you define a friend? It is someone who protects and consoles, who welcomes and loves, who takes our side in a cause; someone with whom we share both joys and sorrows, and whom we count on in all our difficulties – who is always there for us. And no one does all of this better than our mother, especially at the beginning of life. Now, if we call Our Lady our Mother, why would we not consider her our Friend? Her help is no different from that of our best friend.

Mary is the true Friend who, seeing our need, already hastens to our aid to fix the situation, to relieve us of our worries, even before we ask her. As St. Louis Grignion de Montfort rightly puts it, “She loves them [her children] not only affectively but effectively. […] She looks out for favourable opportunities to promote their interests, to ennoble and enrich them. She sees clearly in God all that is good and all that is evil; fortunate and unfortunate events; the blessings and condemnations of God. She arranges things in advance so as to divert evils from her servants and put them in the way of abundant blessings.”2

With such a perfect Friend, there is nothing to fear!

Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur – A sure friend is recognized in unsure times,” goes the saying. And how many unsure moments there are in life… However, for those who have Our Lady as their Mother and Friend, there is nothing to fear, because “it is impossible for such a benignant Queen to see the need of a soul, without going without delay to its aid.”3

As at Cana, Mary’s “great compassion for our miseries leads her to help and console us even when we do not call upon her.”

In this sense, the episode of the Wedding at Cana is eloquent: “When the wine failed, the Mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine’” (Jn 2:3). The text leaves no doubt. Our Lady noticed the distressing situation of the bride and groom; they probably asked her for nothing. She herself stepped forward to help, interceding with her Divine Son. In other words, She is not like the friend of the troublesome man in the parable (cf. Lk 11:5-8), who only came to his aid after much insistence. On the contrary! Mary’s “great compassion for our miseries leads her to help and console us, even when we do not call upon her.”4

The Wedding at Cana – St. Patrick’s Parish, Boston (Massachusetts)

Infallible aid for the confident

Our Lady is a friend for all times, ready to help in any place or situation. And for her intercession to be most effective, She requires no other condition than that of confidence! This good Mother’s greatest joy is to see the complete dependence of those who approach her.

A little boy, even if his clothes are dirty after intense games, will not hesitate to run into his mother’s arms if he feels threatened by a ferocious dog… This must be the faithful soul’s perennial attitude towards Our Lady: even if he is stained by sin – especially if the fault is serious! – he must run to Mary Most Holy, because She holds the keys to the merciful Heart of Jesus and the right remedy for all our ills. Thus, we have no reason to distrust the one of whom it has never been said that She abandoned anyone, no matter how bad!

It is true that there have been, are and always will be souls who do not confide in Mary. And even so, She reaches out to these unhappy creatures with incredible solicitude! It is the mystery of her mercy… Our Lady’s dealings with souls are as unfathomable as the divine designs themselves, but one thing is certain: She cannot resist confident souls any more than a mother can resist the affection of a child.

Confidence in Our Lady is therefore the foundation of every friendship with her. And to have her as a friend is to guarantee unfailing help!

A higher benefit within friendship

However, we need to understand another very important aspect of this bond with our Mother Help of Christians.

It often seems that the Queen of Heaven turns a “deaf ear” to our prayers… However, it is precisely at times like these that we need to recognize her. If She seems to be missing, her apparent absence is her very help.

An example taken from the life of St. John Bosco – the great devotee and friend of Mary Help of Christians – during the construction of the well-known shrine in her honour, can help us understand this truth.

Mary Most Holy indicates to St. John Bosco the place where he is to build a church dedicated to her – Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, Turin (Italy)

“Our Lady had to help Don Bosco in carrying out what She herself had suggested. And this She did. To the contractor who came to ask him for an advance, Don Bosco held out his coin purse: ‘That is all I have!’ And forty cents fell out: ‘But you will see that Our Lady is considering the matter and you will get your money.’ And so things carried on in this way, but sometimes with great difficulty.

“We have to agree that Don Bosco must have possessed extraordinary gifts of persuasion, in order for a contractor to accept positive words alone, in lieu of money! And this, to a greater or lesser extent, in one way or another, went on for five years… Five years in which life was for him, so to speak, a continuous torment, an outright chase after money.

It is not unusual for the Blessed Virgin to permit difficulties to assail those closest to her; She wants us to give the best of ourselves to God

“His fruitful imagination was always inventing new ways to force the purses to open. He organized raffles, sent out circulars, asked the Council of the Commune for help, took his hat and went to knock on the doors of his great benefactors in Rome and Florence. And when all human means proved insufficient, the wonderworker awoke in him, prompting him to petition Heaven for the miracles that would allow him to pay off the building debts and to feed his boys.

“And so one fine day in 1866, the shrine was completed. It was a great day! A veritable multitude attended the ceremonies. […] The shrine was consecrated on June 9, 1868. And for the next twenty years, Don Bosco had the joy of seeing that dome towering over the ‘city’ of Valdocco, serving as a crown for that ‘city’ that his hands had erected. Now Don Bosco rests in the church he built in honour of Our Lady Help of Christians… What a well-deserved rest!”5

Our Lady never fails and could perfectly well have facilitated the financial means for the one who was working for her, operating a miracle as She did at Cana. However, if St. John Bosco had had all the necessary donations from the start, would he have had the same confidence in Providence at the end of the work? More than a stone church, our heavenly Mother wanted to build a monument of confidence in the soul of her friend.

It is not unusual for the Blessed Virgin to allow difficulties to come up along the path of those closest to her. And this for a very simple reason: knowing in advance all the dangers along the way, She forces us to take detours which, from our hasty viewpoint, seem to lead us away from our destination. In fact, we are being guided along the easiest and safest route! All we have to do is let ourselves be led by Mary’s helping hand.

A relationship that pushes us higher

Most of the time, however, we would like to have an immediate solution. It is hard to convince ourselves that in matters of progress in the spiritual life, an effective solution is preferable to an instant one…

When the cross appears on the horizon of life, some are astonished and even angry to think that it was the hand of God himself that placed it there, undervaluing the fact that He puts us to the test for our greater benefit. Imagine a city in which no educational institution, whether elementary, secondary or university level, required its students to take exams. Who would have the courage to submit to an operation performed by a neurosurgeon who had been “trained” according to such a teaching method?

It is with great reason, therefore, that Providence sends us hard tests in life in order to make us worthy of Heaven and… to strengthen our ties with the Mother of God! In fact, it would be almost impossible to pass “life’s exams” with top marks if it were not for the sweet help of Our Lady.

However, this powerful Friend will not compromise with our bad sides; She wants make sure that we give the best of ourselves to God at every opportunity. It is a relationship that pushes us always higher, as Dr. Plinio describes:

The treasure of friendship with Our Lady belongs to those who, during the harsh trials of life, forge even closer bonds with the Mother of God

“There are moments – and they are many! – when human weakness appears and man makes the following reflection: I know I should act in this way and not do something else. I see the burden that this represents, and I need to make a sacrifice. But this sacrifice is painful. I am willing to do it little by little, but how much good it would do me to see that a kind look is sharing in my pain and saying to me: ‘It is true, you have to make this sacrifice and it pains me. I will even take some of your sacrifice upon myself. However, my son, some part is non-transferable and has to be done by you, for your glory, for your good. You would be robbed if the sacrifice was taken away from you. Make the sacrifice, but I will look upon you with affection, with compassion during this time. Let us forge ahead and take heart!’

“A man who is treated like this during the trial and in sorrow, receives a transmission of the strength of the other. It is like a person who cannot walk steadily but is supported by the arms of another. His step falters, he walks, but he needs a support, a friendly arm to hold him up. How can you not say ‘thank you very much’? How can you not feel good close to that helping arm? It is obvious. That is very much the role of Our Lady.”6

Friendship with Our Lady, within our reach

Finally, if it is true that Our Lady is more of a Mother than a Queen, in the words of the Saint of Lisieux,7 from everything we have said we can also conclude that She is as much a Friend as She is a Mother to all!

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure” (Sir 6:14), proclaims the Book of Sirach with good reason. So let us not waste any time, because the precious treasure of friendship with Our Lady is within our reach! ◊



1 ST. ALPHONSUS MARY LIGUORI. Glorias de Maria. 3.ed. Aparecida: Santuário, 1989, p.58.

2 ST. LOUIS-MARIE GRIGNION DE MONTFORT. True Devotion to Mary. In God Alone, n.202-203. Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, p. 353-354.

3 ST. ALPHONSUS MARY LIGUORI, op. cit., p.117.

4 Idem, ibidem.

5 VON MATT, Leonard; BOSCO, Henri. Dom Bosco. Porto: Edições Salesianas, 1965, p.159.

6 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. O Santíssimo Sacramento e a misericórdia de Nossa Senhora – II [The Blessed Sacrament and the Mercy of Our Lady – II]. In: Dr. Plinio. São Paulo. Year XVI. N.182 (May, 2013); p.14-15.

7 Cf. ST. THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS AND OF THE HOLY FACE. Últimos colóquios. In: Obras Completas. 2.ed. São Paulo: Paulus, 2021, p.966.



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